Formed in 1997, avantgarde metal outfit Dir En Grey are one of the most well-known and important Japanese metal bands. Their unique style, a mixture of death metal, progressive metal, hardcore and basically EVERYTHING ELSE, has been unparalleled and their musical output incredibly consistent.
Now, 21 years after their inception, Dir En Grey release their 10th full length album The Insulated World. Does it hold up to their critically acclaimed previous efforts? In my opinion, it absolutely does.
The album is incredibly coherent, given the amount of experimentation that went into it and the weird elements that it is comprised of. The band experiments with electronic elements a little more on this album, which works really well for me. The song “Keigaku No Yoku” is a great example of a fantastic symbiosis of metal and electronic elements with its doomy guitar riffs and heavy glitch sounds, while the drums on the brutal and technical second track “Devote My Life” are almost breakcore-esque. Every song on the record is its own beast, yet they all somehow fit together, like different pieces of a mosaic.
As on their previous albums, there are tons of groovy riffs, melodic choruses, as well as more atmospheric sections. The guitars are technical and heavy, the bass is fat and groovy, the drums hit harder than ever before and Kyo’s vocals are as crazily versatile and fascinating as always. This guy never ceases to amaze me with his chameleon voice that can switch from nightmarish and demonic to soothing and angelic in the fraction of a second. “Ningen Wo Kaburu” is a great example of the album’s sound in general and especially of Kyo’s vocal abilities with its harsh and aggressive verses and beautiful melodic chorus. If you want to get a sneak peak into the band’s sound, this is a good song to start with.
As a whole, The Insulated World is a great mixture of Dir En Grey’s heavier and their softer side, plus previously unheard elements, resulting in a balanced, yet exciting sound that is constantly surprising and captivating throughout the whole playing time of 50 minutes. Definitely one of the most unique and interesting albums of the year – and one of my personal favorites so far.